Sports – Media – Olympics
Updated: date
Published: February 2014

U.S. patriot prefers CBC over NBC for Sochi

Writing from Los Angeles

The Winter Games has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I can still remember learning about countries I had never heard of at around age 5. “Where’s that?” I would ask my parents, pointing to a globe on the coffee table. I guess you could say the Olympics were inadvertently my first geography teacher, but more importantly it was the first time I learned about other cultures around the world.

My wife is from Canada and, like me, she also loves the Winter Games. If you saw us watching figure skating, you’d think we had a family member in the event — yes, we absolutely love the Olympics!

In 2010 we made the trip to Vancouver to experience the Winter Games first-hand. It was absolutely magical. Here’s the thing though: while I was expecting the magic to be all about the events, I quickly found that it was much more. Every night we found ourselves hopping from country-themed house to house. From Russia House to Swiss House, we were welcomed with open arms, tried a few drinks we’d never tasted prior to that and listened to music we had never heard before.

What I learned was that what really makes the Olympics magical is the fact that the whole world comes together, puts their differences aside and shares together in the excitement of the events. I can still remember swapping stories with a guy from Sweden who was the same age as me: we talked about what life was like, what our dreams were and what we did on the weekends. I learned that our lives were incredibly similar; we just lived in different places.

Fast-forward to 2014: my wife and I were excited to watch the Olympics, this time from our home in Los Angeles. We don’t watch a lot of television (we run a tech startup in L.A., so we’re pretty busy people) so we just have basic cable. Still that meant we would get NBC in HD, so I thought we’d be in good shape. I was wrong.

What we learned was that NBC actually only broadcasts the Olympics in two four-hour blocks, of which 50 percent of the broadcast is spent on long, elaborate commercials (the same ones over and over and over again) and commentary.

Then when NBC does show the events you missed, they end up very focused on the U.S. athletes. In the ski slopestyle, introduced for the first time at Sochi as an Olympic competition, they never showed the British athlete who was in first place; we just saw that suddenly someone was ahead of the U.S.

[Dara Howell, a Canadian, became the first gold medal winner in ski slopestyle, finishing first in that women’s event on February 11, 2014, followed by American Devin Logan who took silver and Canadian Kim Lamarre with bronze. — Editor]

The good news for us was that I had heard about a great option that NBC had added this year called “Live Extra” that made it possible to watch the Olympics live or on demand later on. We were saved! Once again, I was wrong. Opening the app, I found out that basic cable wouldn’t cut it; I would need to upgrade my account with my cable provider in order to stream the “Live Extra” content.

That’s when we realized that CBC, BBC and tons of other TV networks around the world allow people in their respective countries to stream for free directly through their website(s). You didn’t need a separate cable plan. It just worked. All you needed was a computer located in that country.

We decided to take action because we wanted to watch the Olympics, not just the highlights shown during “Prime Time” the next day. So I went to and purchased a $12/month package that allowed me to change to a Canadian IP address. Two minutes later, we had access to more Olympic content than I ever thought would be available.

As we started watching, my wife and I looked at each other: “Where are the commercials?” Twenty minutes in and we still hadn’t seen one. Finally we did see one commercial, which lasted under a minute, and then we were instantly back in the action. The slopestyle event that I had really been getting into suddenly took new form when we had the chance to see all 31 athletes compete, rather than the three to four who had been shown in between epically long commercial breaks during NBC’s Prime Time.

I’m a morning person, so watching the Olympics from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. won’t work for me because I’m out like a light by 10 p.m. Then when I wake up in the morning and the Olympic events are rocking in Russia, NBC runs no Olympic programming. The same thing happens in the afternoon: between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., the main time I would have to watch the Olympics, NBC is showing non-Olympic programming on every single channel.

Let’s compare this to the Canadian lineup: CBC has Olympics on multiple channels, going all day and night. The streaming is open to everyone, not just people with a specific cable plan. And the content is focused on the athletes and the events, rather than on the commercials.

Just to compare, I decided to pay Time Warner to upgrade my cable plan so I could see what this NBC “Live Extra” is all about. The first event we watched showed us two snowboarders and then, no joke, 10 minutes of commercials. I thought this must have been an error with the app itself. So I relaunched it and things seemed to get better: still lots of commercials, but not lasting 10 minutes….Then the stream cut out and started at the very beginning.

When I dug deeper, I found that the “Live Extra” app was missing some key events and coverage of some of the athletes who really made these events special. When the app was working, the commercials were relentless. Just as you were starting to get into it, here comes another epic commercial for a $3,500 watch.

Now we are enjoying every minute of the Olympics, and more importantly, every athlete who has worked so hard to get to where they are today. I don’t care whether the athletes are or aren’t from the U.S. I care that they are great at the sports to which they have dedicated their lives.

I love America and am very proud to be from such an incredible and diverse country. I grew up in Berkeley, California and have friends all over the world. It’s sad to see a country which is famous for embracing diversity and celebrating cultures from around the world have its Olympic television network limit access to one of the world’s most unifying events. It really makes you wonder if we’ve lost our way…. Then I remember, it’s not the United States that’s in charge of how we watch the Olympics: it’s NBC.

© Morgan Linton. All Rights Reserved. Publication by 2012-2024.
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